Belfast Telegraph

Campaigners urge Pope to deliver plan to tackle child abuse

The pontiff’s visit to Ireland focused attention on historic incidents of wrongdoing by clergy.

Victims of clerical sexual abuse have called on the Pope to deliver a plan of action to tackle child abuse scandals.

During his two-day visit to Ireland, Pope Francis begged forgiveness for the crimes of the Church.

But campaigners urged him to take that one step further and take concrete action to solve the issue.

Members of two global groups aimed at holding the Catholic church to account gathered outside a former Magdalene Laundry on Dublin’s Sean McDermott Street on Monday to give their reaction to the pontiff’s trip to Ireland.

This issue is a global issue and the only way to tackle this, from a survivor point of view, is with a global response Mark Vincent Healy, survivor

Mark Vincent Healy was one of the Irish abuse victims who met Pope Francis during his visit.

Mr Healy said he presented the Pope with the “harrowing statistics” of what it is like to be a survivor and how it affects people, not only mentally but economically throughout their lives.

“I thought he was the most extraordinary, ordinary man,” Mr Healy said.

The Dubliner, who was abused by two priests as a child, has been fighting for justice for victims for years.

“This issue is a global issue and the only way to tackle this, from a survivor point of view, is with a global response,” he said.

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The exterior of the now derelict Sisters of Our Lady of Charity Magdalene Laundry on Sean McDermott St in Dublin’s north inner city (Julien Behal/PA)

Mr Healy added that he had hoped the pontiff would use the trip as an opportunity to unveil measures aimed at combating the problem, but he had not done so.

“This Pope has actually done nothing,” he said.

“He has not effectively delivered any action,” he said.

Ending Clerical Abuse (ECA) founder Peter Isely reiterated the group’s call for a zero tolerance approach be taken against any priests involved in the scandal.

Mr Isely was sexually assaulted by a priest when he was a child growing up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in the United States.

“You can’t have priests taken out of ministry that have abused children if you have their bishops and supervisors covering up for them,” Mr Isely said.

“These two things are absolutely linked. They have to be done together,” he said.

Mr Isely said that was “absolutely” something Pope Francis could do.

Until the Pope takes action, Mr Isely said nobody should feel that children around the world are safe in Catholic institutions and schools.

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Pope Francis saying goodbye at Dublin Airport (Joe Giddens/PA)

He added that the Pope had left the country but for victims the pain and suffering continued.

Last week a US research group Bishopaccountability.org published a public database of priests who have been convicted of sexual abuse.

A number of Irish priests have been added to the list.

Co-director Anne Barrett Doyle said they had received a huge reaction from Irish survivors since it was launched last week.

“We’re being flooded with emails requesting names to be added to the database,” Ms Barrett Doyle said.

“Clearly survivors in Ireland see a need of a public registry of abusive clergy.”

But she said the church’s continued secrecy coupled with Ireland’s robust laws around defamation made it “impossible to give anything close to a fair accountability”.

Ms Barrett Doyle added: “The great unfinished business here in Ireland is accountability, accountability of perpetrators and accountability of Catholic church supervisors who enabled them.”

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